Follow US:

Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Subscription Affliction - Everything is $10/month

Difficulty: 0

If you watch movies, listen to music, or own a phone, Youre probably familiar with subscriptions.

At least, your wallet is

Which, for companies, are pure gold Or, green, I guess.

Instead of selling you today, and tomorrow, and next week, They only need to convince

you once, and the money keeps coming.

A steady, predictable stream of revenue.

Because each customer is so valuable, they can focus more on keeping them than doing

anything and everything to get more.

But its no longer just newspapers and magazines, now its everything:

Music, Movies, Food, Games, Storage, Clothes, Razors, Makeup, Software, Cars, animal bones?

Seriously - Boneboxincludes various osteological specimens such as skulls, claws, and teeth

for just $24.99 a month Ooo-kay?!

Why does every business need to be a subscription?

Where does it end?

Lets divide subscriptions into two categories.

Services, like Netflix, Prime, Lootcrate, and Spotify, kinda have to be subscriptions

Sure, you can buy music and movies individually, but here, you get everything.

40 million songs on Apple Music times the usual dollar twenty nine would be $51 million

dollars - so, yeah.

Subscription boxes, which send you new things in the mail every month, are services because

theyre more about fun and surprise than the stuff itself.

And then there are products - things that could be sold, but here are rented.

And this is where things get hairy You dont have to be a master Googler or Binger, or

DuckDuckGoer, but, boy do those sound awkward, to find a million and a half people criticizing

this business model.

But its not actually subscriptions theyre angry about, nobodys complaining about

Netflix or Spotify, its really this second category - especially software.

When companies want to reach in your wallet every month until you die for what could be

a simple, one-time purchase, it feels a lot like a cash grab,

And, sometimes, it totally is.

Adobe switched to a monthly fee precisely to increase profit.

But its not always so simple, Even when they seem unnecessary, subscriptions can be

good for everyone, including you and I.

Companies usually dont explain why, and when they do, its easy to see as just an

excuse to make more money, but there is a why.

And since my thing is taking complicated, controversial topics and trying to explain

them in too little time - lets get to it

The idea of a rental is nothing new, we rent apartments, and cars, and if you live in Alaska,

where there are still 6 Blockbusters, movies.

Hashtag SomeoneTellAlaskaAboutNetflix

But, nobody wants to rent, say, their lamp.

When you dont have to, why would you?

Owning is just simpler, and usually, cheaper.

Losing what we already own is especially frustrating.

Apps like Ulysses and Autodesk were a one-time purchase, then one day, you get an email:

I know you already bought this, but if you want to keep getting updates, now it costs

$5 a month.

k thanks bye.

Ulysses was absolutely flooded with 1 star reviews.

Probably the most life the Mac App Stores ever seen

And fifty thousand people signed a petition against Adobe.

Which, as we know, is very effectiveat spamming your email

But heres the problem: The way most people think about software just isnt realistic.

Remember that lamp?

what if every year you got this popup: Hey, you need to update to a new version of your


If you dont, itll be vulnerable to burglars.

Sometimes it goes smoothly, sometimes it permanently changes your wall sockets.

Maybe to these cute little ones from Denmark.

And you think, What the heck?

I bought that lamp and now its suddenly incompatible with my house for reasons completely

beyond my control?

The house is your operating system, the lamp, your software.

Programming may seem like build once - collect profit forever, but if an app isnt updated,

it dies.

Technology just moves way too fast.

Knowing this, do you really want to own that lamp?

Truly owning software means owning all its bugs and future incompatibility.

Maybe your answer is yes, well get to that later.

But me, if I really depend on something, and theres a chance itll break in a year,

well, Id rather rent it from someone who maintains it.

Fixing bugs is like Sisyphus endlessly pushing his boulder up the mountain only for it to

fall back down.

You cant expect developers to do that forever just because you gave them 99 cents three

years ago.

You might sayObviously these apps dont need subscriptions because they did just fine

before” - but the truth is, they mostly didnt

Big companies always find a way to earn a profit, Adobe has the power and prominence

to ask $53 a month, and make billions doing it.

But many apps, some of the best apps, are made by a single person, or a small team of


They compete with 2, 3 million others, and a feeling that if you cant hold something,

it shouldnt cost anything.

So, unless you trademark the wordCandy”, seriously that actually happened, or spend

millions advertising, your sales look like this: A huge spike in the beginning, maybe

some seasonal bumps, and then, almost nothing.

You might make half your salary on the first day, but by the 20th or 50th, things dont

look so good.

So you have a few options:

You can get more customers - Do some marketing, keep updating the app, and cross your fingers.

Or, more accurately, pray to the App Store Gods

Sometimes this can work.

But the App Store isnt like YouTube, doing everything it can to bring audiences to your

videos, Right, YouTube?

Even a great app can get stuck in a corner and never be found.

And eventually, everyone who needs your app will already have it.

Plenty of happy customers, and no more income for you.

Or: if sales are so good at the beginning, just release as many paid updates as possible.

Again, sometimes it works.

But it can also be a dangerous trap, because the incentive is to release as many paid updates

as you can.

Just enough new features to make people pay, but not so many that you cant do it again

in a few months.

And sooner or later, itll be good enough for 99% of us, but hey, gotta keep making

money, so youll keep cramming in new, unnecessary features.

That was Microsoft Office.

What I ask from Word is pretty basic: when I press a key on my keyboard, I want that

same letter to show on my screen.

ahem Take notes, MacBook Pro keyboard

And I guess fonts and tables and images are cool too.

But I have absolutely zero need for 3D pie charts or smart tags, or research tools, or

a talking paperclip.

Actually, I take that last back, Clippy.

Office was so profitable, Microsoft kept adding, and adding, and adding, until it forgot Word

is, just, ya know, a place to write stuff.

At this point, Ill just use Google Docs, where I actually know what the buttons do.

For many apps, neither option is sustainable.

And even if you feel zero sympathy for developers, its in your best interest to find a solution:

Because if you rely on an app, for your business, or hobby, or security, you want to incentivize

its developer to care as much as you do.

We can say companies should update their apps forever, and always answer support tickets,

or we can design a system where they actually want to.

For many apps, thats a subscription - taking what you wouldve paid upfront and handing

it out over time.

If developers want to keep getting paid, they want to keep you happy.

Over time, subscriptions cost more, but for that, youre guaranteed updates, and support,

and compatibility.

Plus, it rewards the apps you use the longest.

In some industries, these better incentives are even more desperately needed:

For news companies, the goal is more clicks, more views, more ads, usually the worst kind

of ads.

Clickbait only stops if clicks stop being profitable, which is the promise of subscriptions

like Blendle and Inkl.

One price for all the articles you want.

Or, a small micropayment per article, refunded if it turns out to be clickbait.

The goal is no longer to deceive you, but keep you subscribed.

Subscriptions give sites like Above Avalon, Kottke, and Macstories freedom to make quality

content on really specific topics, instead of whatever it takes to attract huge audiences.

It also lets you and I try things out, maybe you only need a service occasionally, in which

case you can subscribe only when you actually need it.

But because people think only of services as subscriptions, products often try to argue

theyre actually a service.

Something like: “We store and sync your data, which costs us moneyBut not very


All this does is create distrust.

Developers should be up-front: “What youre really paying for is longevity, which is in

everyones best interest.”

But there is a catch

One movie ticket is an entire month of Netflix, and then some.

Factor in popcorn savings, and make it a lifetime

You could own one single album or every noise ever made on planet Earth for the price of

a few Cups of Coffee.

But when everything is the price of one or two cups of coffee, you can very quickly end

up buying a whole Starbucks.

Say you subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Dropbox, and BlueApron.

Thats over a hundred dollars a month.

Add Creative Cloud, YouTube TV, and the New York Times, and its another hundred.

And this is just the beginning

Apple takes 30% of an apps revenue, but for long-term subscriptions, now only 15.

So more and more businesses are going to make use.

For movies alone, theres already Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, and soon, Disney,

and Apple.

So, not everything can or should be a subscription.

Things you use only occasionally and dont rely on have no reason to be,

or should at least have another option for people who fall into that category:

The app Sketch finds a good balance - One upfront price, with one year of updates.

You can treat it like a subscription, or you can not.

Another solution is Bundles - one price for multiple subscriptions.

Setapp, for example, does this with mac applications.

And more companies will follow: Apple could have one for Apple Music, streaming video,

iCloud storage, maybe some other things.

Amazon Prime has shown how well this strategy can work.

Students get Spotify and Hulu together for less than either separately.

Or, how about a subscription to be a great student, on topics like physics, computer

science, and problem solving?

Brilliant helps you learn new things in a way that you actually understand, not just

memorize for the next test.

Last term I took a math class covering some differential equations, all pretty vague and

theoretical, but after looking at the lesson on Brilliant, I really wish I had known about


It starts by explaining why the concept actually matters, and what its all about, with visuals,

and questions to give you instant feedback.

If you answer incorrectly, Brilliant doesnt just mark your answer red and move on, it

helps you understand how to get it right.

If youre a student, or like learning new things, find a topic that peaks your interest

and dive in.

I recommend Computer Science Algorithms - its pretty interesting, and gives you a peak at

how our technology works.

And speaking of subscriptions, its really the ideal: premium is one low price, they

keep adding new topics all the time, and you have the freedom to jump around to learn exactly

what interests you most.

You can support PolyMatter by going to the link in the description -

And the first 200 people to use that will get 20% off the annual premium subscription.

Thanks to Brilliant, and to everyone who gives it a try.

The Description of Subscription Affliction - Everything is $10/month